September 19, 2019

Was Glenn Hall The Best Goalie Of The Original Six?

Glenn Hall is of course famous for his 502 consecutive games played, one of the true amazing records in all of professional sports. Yesterday Dave Stubbs at the Montreal Gazette talked about how Hall actually played 1024 games in succession, taking into account junior, minor league and playoff action.

"Hall says that 502 is a statistic of which he's fiercely proud. But then in our chat he dropped this bomb, dramatically adding to his lore with a personal ledger that charts his career:

In junior and minor pro, Hall says he didn't miss a single game, including matches that don't exist in the sketchy record-keeping of the 1940s and '50s.

Hall is one of the goaltending greats of the Original Six era. But how does he stack up against Jacques Plante and Terry Sawchuk?

A lot of people will side with Sawchuk on that one, due to his long run as hockey's all time wins and shutouts leader. Personally I've always sided with Plante, due to his enduring legacy as an innovator and as a champion.

But Hall deserves serious consideration. He was only 40 wins and 19 shutouts shy of Sawchuk, despite playing two fewer seasons. And, as the grandfather of the butterfly style of goaltending that now dominates hockey, his innovative legacy is equally undeniable as Plante's.

In fact, a quick look at the standard statistics shows there is very little to choose from between the three. They all had lengthy careers with similar win totals and goals against averages. Variances, sure, but nothing truly alarming.

One area where Hall dominates is the post-season All Star nominations. One should consider First and Second All Star team selections as the barometer of Original Six goaltending excellence rather than the Vezina Trophy. Back in those days the Vezina trophy was, much like the William Jennings Trophy nowadays, simply awarded to the goaltender that allowed the fewest goals against in the season. Hence it was really more of a team trophy than an individual award. But All Star selections honoured the best of the best.

Hall leads these three with 11 All Star nods (7 First and 4 Second) in a span of 14 seasons. Both Plante and Sawchuk had 7 total nominations, both earning 3 First and 4 Second team nominations. Sawchuk's selections came mostly in the early 1950s, while Plante's came mostly at the end of the decade.

That is a very impressive argument in Hall's favour. These three goalies, plus the likes of Johnny Bower and Gump Worsley, played head to head, making Hall's All Star record simply incredible.

Both Sawchuk and Plante backstopped Stanley Cup dynasties. Hall played for the generally weaker Black Hawks' team, thus hurting his legacy some. Hall backstopped Chicago to a rare Stanley Cup win in 1961. Not a lot of people realize that was 1 of 7 trips to the Stanley Cup finals for Hall (5 times with Chicago). The 1968 Conn Smythe Trophy winner as playoff MVP was undoubtedly a great goaltender who did not enjoy the great teams in front of him like Sawchuk or Plante.

Who is the best goaltender of the Original Six. It really is too close to call from any analytical breakdown. Convincing arguments could be made for any of the three. But it is somewhat rare to see anyone sticking up for the man who earned the ultimate puck-stopping nickname of all time: Mr. Goalie

You can read my full biography of Glenn Hall here.

No comments: